Observation and Duplication

We learn by observation and duplication. That is an important part of the creative process at odds with the myth of the artist. Art relies on a community of artists who are working alongside each other for energy and inspiration.


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Art quilters are largely passionate hobbyists. Many art quilters happily produce work in the style of their favorite teacher for a period of time. Some take classes from a variety of  teachers until they develop a more personal style. The natural process of creating a unique voice will include a period of being derivative. 

 

Derivative: (typically of an artist or work of art) imitative of the work of another person, and usually disapproved of for that reason.: "an artist who is not in the slightest bit derivative".

Synonyms: imitative, unoriginal, uninventive, unimaginative, uninspired, copied, plagiarized, plagiaristic, secondhand, secondary, , trite,  clichéd, stale, tired, worn out, flat, rehashed, warmed-up, stock, banal

 

I have been reading “Writing Down the Bones.” by Natalie Goldberg. It’s now out in the 30th Anniversary edition. It is a classic text for writers circles. Goldberg believes in the power of writing as a form of meditation, self reflection and art. In her book Natalie encourages keeping a free flowing journal. I see many  parallels to my own art practice in this approach to the creative process.  

The book is a collection of short essays that seem designed to be consumed not in a big chunk; but as small bites of inspiration. One of these bites, “Writing is a Communal Act” struck me as applicable to the art quilt community. Art, whether it’s writing, painting or art quilting is, as Goldberg outlines, a communal not an isolated activity. She gives artists permission to write in the style of a Hemingway because he is an excellent writer and to do so without guilt.

To copy a style is not a crime, it  is using the community of art as a resource. 

Art communities are not meeting in the traditional sense as often as they did before. The world is increasingly connected in the virtual space of Facebook, Zoom, Online Galleries, Exhibitions and Museums. YouTube and Instagram have a  barrage of images that seem overwhelming. It is in these spaces that one can get lost. The challenge is to find one’s own path within the virtual jungle. 

As I scroll through my Instagram I look carefully for artists that at a gut level speak to me. It may be that they are working with photographs, their work is figurative, the subject matter is akin to mine or design style is very engaging. Because the algorithms used by search engines send us similar content it is easy to start collecting images or finding videos that connect to each other. They offer opportunities for deeper explorations.

As I play in my studio or in my sketchbook; I never worry about being derivative. I often begin by working in the style of someone else with abandon until that style morphs into my own. 

Until next time....
Margaret

 

 

 

Setting up a Shop

I have been looking at quilts that are stored and selected some to sell. My approach to selling might be different than a typical artist.

  • I have never thought that the price of art has anything to do with its intrinsic value.
  • Money does not inspire me to create.
  • I do not link my success with any income my art generates.

 


The "value" of my art rests  completely in the process of making the art.


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Since I retired I never focused on selling my art or my skills as a teacher. First I  focused on creating a portfolio. My next step was to enter SAQA exhibitions. Then I tried to expand my exhibit opportunities to include major quilt shows and some of the most competitive juried shows. I wanted to use the  feedback from judges to help direct my creative energy. The process of making art and entering in shows fueled my creative engine for several years. 

As my resume expanded  I wanted to reach beyond the exhibition audiences. My social media presence became more thoughtful and consistent. I created a YouTube Channel to share both my knowledge as a trained art teacher and my skills as an art quilter. I updated my website adding opportunities to for lectures and workshops.

When my inventory of quilts grew I thought about selling. Although  I tried some local galleries , I didn't find a good fit and continued to seek somewhere outside Utah that would attract audiences open to fiber art. My goal was not to produce income. My goal was to share my work with the largest audience possible. 

This year the world has shifted but my desire to share my work with a larger audience has not. Galleries are not seeing foot traffic. Workshops, classes and even guilds have shut down for a period of time. We are now fully in the virtual world where the audience is seemingly limitless.

To share my work and expand my connections I needed to change my focus from local to global. I have been working on launching online classes. (I will be on Teachable in the next few weeks, look for an announcement on my Social Media) In October I will be doing a Zoom lecture with Front Range Contemporary Quilters in Colorado. Any quilt guild or group can reach out and get a virtual lecture by me via Zoom. 

My gallery of work is also in the virtual space.  I have my fabric designs for sale in a spoonflower studio and now I am launching  an online Etsy shop to sell my quilts. The process of opening an Etsy shop was pretty easy. It was similar to Spoonflower’s Studio Space. I wanted to sell art quilts that had subject matter that would appeal to an audience who would find my work through the search engine within the platform. Hashtags leading  them to artists like me are a big help in building an audience.

Most of the initial items for sale were from my travel series. These quilts started with landscapes which I believe will attract a larger audience. I am selling quilts featuring Snow Canyon, Zion National Park, San Antonio and Italy.  I am pricing them at $380. It’s bargain priced because my goal is not income, it’s to share my work with the largest audience possible. 

Longer term I want to add some smaller work that originates with my sketchbook. This work is exciting to me because I am able to engage in creative play. As I finish these smaller quilts, I will be adding them to the shop. I haven't set a price yet but it will be super reasonable.


Join me in this new world. Check out my Etsy and Spoonflower Shops. Like my Facebook Page or Follow me on Instagram.  

It’s a new world. Let’s all dive in!

Until Next Time.....
Margaret

Sketchbooks

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The season of heat here in Southern Utah is almost done. I am able to get an hour on the patio each morning as long as the shades are down and the fan is on.

During that hour I have been sketching.


Sketchbooks were a big part of my life as an art teacher. All my students started each unit of study, no matter what the medium(printmaking, ceramics, glass) ; with their sketchbooks. Sketchbooks help focus attention and turn that noisy left brain off.


I start sketching with a collection of ideas for sketchbook pages I collect on a Pinterest board. I have a basket of markers and several very sharp pencils. My sketchbook is small. Each day I work on a double page starting with a light pencil sketch. I trace the pencil lines with thin black markers and then erase the pencil lines. Next I add color.

I have new markers that act like watercolors. The tips are brushes. The set came with a water pen allowing me to paint water over a line to soften the effect. I also have markers with two tips and sets with a range of color values. These materials are organized  in a wire basket and separated with cans holding different pens.

Each of these page spreads included some text. Sometimes it’s a quote, but most often I just put down a short phrase. Drawing out different kinds of lettering is a great way to improve your drawing skills. Arranging the words on a page with an illustration is a way to practice making choices in your composition. 

Some of the barriers to drawing most people face are:

  • Unrealistic expectation of making something look real
  • Not knowing where to start
  • Endless erasing to get it just right
  • Wasting time searching for subject matter
  • Romantic ideas about how a “real” artist would sketch
  • Have an attitude of failure after a single session

 

You can avoid these barriers by:

  • Trying to copy an existing drawing. Drawing from life can be too much when you first start, but not using a visual reference is a mistake. 
  • Start with a single subject. Don’t over think the process. 
  • Add fillers to the page like words, or colors, patterns, etc...
  • Draw with a pencil using short light lines. Trace with a heavy pencil line or maker and erase the light lines. 
  • Realism is overrated. Seek out examples of illustrations that visually engaging but not complex

 


Don't judge yourself, just finish the page.

Repeat a process (draw, trace color) overtime and remember it’s not going into a gallery.

It’s just for you.


Until next time...
Margaret

Nowhere to Go, but always something to do…

My travel is mostly in my imagination and on YouTube, but just because I don’t have anywhere to go doesn’t mean I am not busy.

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As many of you know, I use “Spoonflower” to print my fabric. For the past 5 years my focus has been on photographic portraits and landscapes. Over the five years, my Spoonflower Design library is getting quite large. I decided to address the online clutter and found some of my first designs created at Art Quilt Tahoe in a class by Jane Dunnewold in 2015. 

I can’t remember the exact assignment, but I do remember there was a dusting of snow on the ground and I wandered around with my newly purchased camera taking photographs of rocks, pine needles and red branches with a hint of leaves left on them. These photographs were uploaded, resized, manipulated digitally to change their colors and turned in every direction. I printed a sample or two which I used for scarfs but never focused on making my own digital yardage. 

 As I organized my design library, these photo experimental fabric designs caught my eye. I placed them in a separate folder. The next step was to order a sample. When the samples arrived I was able to check the quality and place them in my online shop. My shop now has 8 designs with a goal of having many more on offer in the upcoming months. 

Designs by metaphysical_quilter

Shop Link Above

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This has been a learning curve for me. I have been able to figure this new world out with the help from my super tech savvy son and the wealth of information from connections within the art quilt community.


I also am using all the years of teaching experience in an art classroom to put together virtual workshops. I am using both familiar tools like PowerPoint and a new streaming application to record my computer screen while I am working in Photoshop. I be putting out more information about this project in early fall.

It’s learning that keeps me young and engaged.
I am experiencing the world very differently today than last year and it’s exciting!


(If you are interested in an online workshop, let me know at metaphysicalquilter@gmail.com. )


 

Until next time....
Margaret

Stages of Buying Equipment

Like many other Americans of my age I am staying close to home this year. Even my quilts seem to be sheltering in place because of exhibit cancellations. I had hoped this year to begin to lecture and teach but this goal has to be put aside. Now I am working through a new plan to take advantage of this unusual period of time.

Last year I entered many more of the traditional quilt shows. Typical art quilt exhibitions are judged on a digital images. Prizes (if offered) are based on criteria not tied to the traditions of craft. In traditional shows I realized that the quality of my quilting was an area I needed to master.

I also started taking some cues from the modern quilt movement. Their quilts are known for an absence of fabric pattern and an excess of quilting. The surface pattern is a key marker of the modern quilt. It fits in a niche between traditional and art by taking visual cues  from both approaches to quilting.


As I write this post, my quilt studio has a new addition. A small frame long arm machine. I selected the Handi Quilter SImply Sixteen with a Little Foot Frame. I want to share with you the process of making this decision and how it will expand my portfolio.


 

5 stages of change : Pre-contemplation. Contemplation. Preparation. Action. Maintenance

“The trans-theoretical model of behavior change is an integrative theory of therapy that assesses an individual's readiness to act on a new healthier behavior, and provides strategies, or processes of change to guide the individual.”  Wikipedia

change

The 5 stages of change are associated with behavior change. They are applied in therapy for habits including additions, anger management, eating disorders, smoking etc...

I am going to use these 5 stages to the art quilter in general and specifically to my process of buying new equipment.

 

The 5 stages of purchasing equipment.

Precontemplation: This is the point where a project is a struggle, excessively time consuming, has to be altered to accommodate the equipment within the workspace. This is the phase where projects that go beyond current skills are and beyond the comfortable use of current equipment. It’s the “what if...” stage 

Contemplation: In this stage the workarounds with equipment are either impossible or too cumbersome. This stage is often sparked by new learning. A week-long  workshop, a trunk show or a studio tour may be a spark needed to consider a new purchase. It should be clear the skill set needed to accomplish the goal is not the primary concern. It’s the level of frustration where the need to make an additional investment is clear. 

Preparation: The first step in this stage is research. That is the point where a network of quilters is important. Ask for suggestions. Make a short list of equipment. Remember to select only equipment that  has a solid support system. (Dealer, Service Center, Online Help, etc..)   Carefully consider the compromises.  (Will you need to sell or move something? Will you have enough walking space? Give up storage?) Understand the number of hours needed to feel competent using the new equipment. 

Action: Now is the time to figure out a budget. This may mean waiting until a floor model is available or going to a show to get a deeper discount. It may also mean selecting from your shortlist based on price. Consider seeking out used equipment. Reconfigure your studio space  before placing an order.


Maintenance: Once equipment has arrived be prepared for the learning curve. Having a series of practice pieces ready. Make sure that you allow yourself time everyday to learn and become comfortable. Having a support system readily available is key to maintaining the commitment to this investment.


My long arm arrived a few weeks ago. Before it arrived I moved my computer, printer and cutting machine to another room in the house. I consolidated my thread collection and measured out exactly where I wanted the new machine and frame placed in my sewing studio.

Before it arrived, I purchased some cheap cotton and batting.  I watched numerous videos on how to load the backing, batting and top. Within a few hours of my Simply Sixteen's arrival I had my first practice quilt sandwich completed.

My plan is to try to empty my dwindling stash of commercial fabrics as I play and learn. In the future I hope to create a new series of art quilts which combines my painted digital designs with a modern background.

 

It’s a good year to invest in the future.
Until Next Time.....
Margaret